Early data from the new variant do not indicate a large degree of danger, says top US pandemic scientist.
Early indications of the severity of the Omicron COVID-19 variant are “a little encouraging”, but more information is still needed, according to leading US pandemic adviser Dr Anthony Fauci.
“Omicron has a transfer advantage” in South Africa, where the variant was first reported, Fauci said in a CNN interview on Sunday, noting that the country had a low level of cases before it “almost a vertical rise upwards, which is almost exclusively Omicron ”.
“Although it is too early to really make any definitive statements about it, so far there does not seem to be a great deal of seriousness about it,” he said. “So far, the signals have been a bit encouraging.”
Medical experts have underlined in recent days that the South African population is pulling young skewed and more serious cases may emerge in the coming weeks.
Laboratory tests are underway to determine whether Omicron – a highly mutated strain of the virus – is more transmissible than other strains, resistant to vaccination and infection, or more severe, with results expected within weeks.
Omicron in 30 Percent of US States
Meanwhile, U.S. health officials said the variant has spread to about one-third of U.S. states, but the Delta version remains the majority of COVID-19 cases nationwide.
At least 15 U.S. states have reported Omicron cases: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin, according to a Reuters report. news agency.
Many of the cases were among fully vaccinated individuals with mild symptoms, although the laparoscopic status of some patients was not known.
“I think there’s a real risk that we’re going to see a decline in vaccine efficacy,” Stephen Hoge, president of vaccine producer Moderna, told ABC News.
“What I do not know is how substantial it is,” Hoge added. “Is this going to be the kind of thing we saw with the Delta variant, that is, vaccines were ultimately still effective, or are we going to see something like a 50 percent decrease in efficacy, which would mean we get the vaccines.”
Moderna, like other pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, has already started working to adjust their vaccines if necessary.
Cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed so far in about 40 countries.
Attempts to tweak vaccines
Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers want to quickly adjust their shots to target Omicron and US regulators have promised swift reviews, but that could take months.
Moderna Inc. said it could seek U.S. approval for an updated vaccine as soon as March, but company officials said in television interviews Sunday that it would still take time to increase output.
U.S. government officials also worked with vaccine manufacturers Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson on updated shots.
The United States last week imposed a travel ban on South Africa and seven other Southern African countries to halt the variant’s distribution.
Fauci said Sunday he hopes the restrictions will be lifted “within a fairly reasonable period of time”.